In 1996 a film from the UK burst onto the scene and changed the course of history. Not only did this film introduce unbelievable talent to the world in the form of the cast and crew, but it brought a new perception as to what makes an incredible film. The fusion of acting prowess, heart-racing camera work, and perfectly matched music made Trainspotting a movie that defined a generation. That generation has since grown, and just like the beloved characters of that movie, their choice of life was not what they planned it to be.
T2 Trainspotting is a masterful reunion 21 years in the making. Back at the helm, Danny Boyle took another illustrious script by John Hodge and made an equally impactful sequel worthy of the original. Inspired by Irvine Welsh’s continuation of the story of the boys from Scotland, T2 (as it is affectionally known) jumps right into the lives of the fabulous 4: Renton (Ewan McGregor), Simon (Jonny Lee Miller), Spud (Ewen Bremner), and Begbie (Robert Carlyle); 20 years after the earth shattering betrayal in the first film.
It won’t hurt to familiarize yourself with the original story, if somehow you forgot this impressive film, but it’s also not necessary. This continuation does a beautiful job filling in the memory blanks you might have of plot, all the while never dumbing it down for a new audience. The fluidity of the plot makes it appear that there hasn’t been significant time between productions. We make our way through reacquaintance of the characters in a slow yet methodic dance, allowing for the heaviness of their chosen paths to become engrained, even if they are expected.
Even though these characters are beloved, they are also greatly flawed. The brilliance of this continued tale is that no one involved pulled any punches as to the ugly truth of their reality. The story shows how dark their choices have lead them to be, or how regretful they have been for what has happened. It’s refreshing to see a true representation of these complex characters, one true fans will love beyond all others. The heart and friendship these characters experienced together is always just below the surface, never just being about a chance reunion 20 years later.
The natural progression of the script could only be as powerful as the actors who bring these boys to life. Since the original, all four of the main actors have continued to grow in career. Each of their roles since the original has only lead to perfect their talent, and seeing them back at their beginning presents the perfect circle of genius. The audience slips back into the mindset of the mid-90s, seeing these actors as their characters, not as the ones we have grown to know. It’s an excellent experiment in the emotional center of the ones we connect with.
The unmistakable continuation of creative genius is not limited to the actors. Boyle proves once more that his original storytelling and visually stunning images are perfection. One of the most impressive aspects about Boyle’s filmography is the genres he has worked in throughout his career. He has never stuck to one particular type of story in a broad sense, but he has alway used techniques to bring the characters to life with vivid affection. His style is distinctive and all his own, and his return to its birth was not regarded as a fleeting chance at renewed success.
That can be said across the board. The regrouping of the original cast and crew had no signs of egotism. This was not a vanity project. Okay, to be fair, there may have been a slight element of that on the production end, but we’ll never know since we’re not in that inner circle. What is important, however, was that it wasn’t apparent within the production itself. These are friends who haven’t worked together in 20 plus years, and with a sequel source material, the chance for collaboration once more seemed fitting. The story in the original film was tied up and ended in a way that it wasn’t necessary that we find out what happened next. Since there was no urgency in a return, and the respect they paid to the natural progression of time, T2 Trainspotting stands on its own two legs as an original film.
Thankfully, however, this isn’t the case. It’s a brilliant restoration of a unique film, not only honoring but perfecting the original. There are the same moments throughout this film that were treasured from before, yet never falling into the pitfalls of an immediate re-creation. If you loved the original, this is the continuation you’ve waited for. If you are new to these boys and their antics, you will yearn to find out their origin story.
To be fair, this review has the distinction of leaning towards a biased attitude. Boyle’s films have always had an inspirational effect on me as a filmmaker and fan, with this film once again solidifying my affection for his features. There is a reason why he is my favorite director, he continues to make films with his whole heart. This spirit is not only visible on screen through the collaborators he delicately chooses, but with the attention to the film’s soul he is exploring.
T2 Trainspotting is out in limited release today.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Sony Pictures